1926 Bentley 3 Litre
Year of manufacture1926
Number of seats2
1926 Bentley 3-Litre 'Light Tourer'
Coachwork by Vanden Plas
Registration no. MO 8100
Chassis no. HP393
Engine no. HP389
'A great deal of care has been taken to design a roomy body which will seat four comfortably and five on occasions, and which will give ample protection for passengers in the rear seats' - Bentley Motors' advertising copy for the Open Touring Car on the Light Touring Chassis.
With characteristic humility 'W O' was constantly amazed by the enthusiasm of later generations for the products of Bentley Motors Limited, and it is testimony to the soundness of his engineering design skills that so many of his products have survived. From the humblest of beginnings in a mews garage off Baker Street, London in 1919 the Bentley rapidly achieved fame as an exciting fast touring car, well able to compete with the best of European and American sports cars in the tough world of motor sport in the 1920s. Bentley's domination at Le Mans in 1924, 1927, 1928, 1929 and 1930 is legendary, and one can only admire the Herculean efforts of such giants as Woolf Barnato, Jack Dunfee, Tim Birkin and Sammy Davis, consistently wrestling the British Racing Green sports cars to victory.
W O Bentley proudly unveiled the new 3-litre car bearing his name on Stand 126 at the 1919 Olympia Motor Exhibition, the prototype engine having fired up for the first time just a few weeks earlier. Bentley's four-cylinder 'fixed head' engine incorporated a single overhead camshaft, four-valves per cylinder and a bore/stroke of 80x149mm. Twin ML magnetos provided the ignition and power was transmitted via a four-speed gearbox with right-hand change. The pressed-steel chassis started off with a wheelbase of 9' 9½", then adopted dimensions of 10' 10" ('Standard Long') in 1923, the shorter frame being reserved for the TT Replica and subsequent Speed Model. Rear wheel brakes only were employed up to 1924 when four-wheel Perrot-type brakes were introduced.
In only mildly developed form, this was the model that was to become a legend in motor racing history and which, with its leather-strapped bonnet, classical radiator design and British Racing Green livery, has become the archetypal Vintage sports car.
Early success in the 1922 Isle of Man Tourist Trophy, when Bentleys finished second, fourth, and fifth to take the Team Prize, led to the introduction of the TT Replica (later known as the Speed Model) on the existing 9' 9½" wheelbase, short standard chassis. Identified by the Red Label on its radiator, the Speed Model differed by having twin SU 'sloper' carburettors, a higher compression ratio, different camshaft and the close-ratio A-type gearbox, the latter being standard equipment prior to 1927 when the C-type 'box was adopted. These engine changes increased maximum power from the standard 70 to 80bhp and raised top speed to an impressive 90mph. Other enhancements included the larger (11-gallon) fuel tank and (usually) Andre Hartford shock absorbers. Bentley made approximately 1,600 3-Litre models, the majority of which was bodied by Vanden Plas with either open tourer or saloon coachwork.
Dating from February 1926, the Bentley 3-Litre offered here is an example of the Light Tourer on the 9' 9½" wheelbase chassis, only 42 of which were made. The Light Tourer was an 'economy' model with a chassis price of £795 and a complete car price of £995. It carried the standard 4/5 seater open body by Vanden Plas and was available in only three standard colours: Maroon, Dark Blue and Grey, with others available at extra cost. A shorter steering column was fitted to give greater space in the body. Today the Light Tourer is very rare, with only two or three known survivors.
Chassis number 'HP393' was completed with Vanden Plas body number '1219', engine number 'HP389' and an 'A' type gearbox. The engine was a low-compression unit with a single Smith carburettor, while the exterior of the car was finished in grey and black with grey upholstery and black weather equipment. The car was registered with the number 'MO 8100', a Berkshire mark, and is highly unusual among surviving Bentleys of this period in retaining a full set of matching numbers: chassis, engine, gearbox, body, axles, steering box, registration, etc. The body number is stamped in various places on the car and even on the top of the dashboard, which still has all its original instruments.
The Bentley's first owner was one P J Lynch of Woolhampton, Berkshire, who kept it at least until the end of the Service Record in June 1932. A history of Woolhampton School contains the following reference to the Bentley: 'Colonel Patrick Lynch lived next to the school in Woolhampton Lodge with his housekeeper Miss Weatherston. It is remembered that he owned an immaculately maintained Bentley that glittered, particularly the large lamps and the shiny nuts in the gleaming hubcaps.'
The first time the car was registered with the Bentley Drivers' Club was in 1952 when it was owned by Mr J Sutcliffe of Egham. The next recorded owner was Mr P J Brookes in 1956 followed by Barry Cooper in 1959, and the car is known to have been in the USA with Mr G Morris from October 1971. In 1977 the car was in the ownership of a Mr Quisenberg in Florida. In the 1987 BDC members listing, the car is with Mr D Powers in Florida, USA. The interior was re-trimmed circa 1970 while the Bentley was in the USA.
'MO 8100' was then re-imported into the UK and sold at auction in 1988. A Mr M Eyears from London owned the car for a short while, followed by a Mr Hamperle from 1989 until 1993 when it was sold to the current vendor. A large history file comes with the car containing bills from 1989 to date amounting to £7,200, mainly from Donald Day, expired MoT certificates and tax discs dating back to 1988, plus black and white photographs dating from Barry Cooper's ownership in the 1950s. We are advised that the engine was rebuilt in 1990, and that the car benefits from partial rewiring and an overhauled dynamo.
'MO 8100' currently has a VSCC Buff Form as a standard car and has won a few awards in navigational rallies but has never been raced or trialled. It is pictured in Clare Hay's book, 'Bentley - The Vintage Years', the photograph dating from 1952. It should be noted that some sources incorrectly state that the car now has engine number '916', whereas it has always had the original unit, 'HP389'. The only notified deviation from factory specification is the provision of flashing indicators in the sidelights.
The vendor describes 'MO 8100' as in generally excellent condition, not concours but very tidy and usable, and currently on the road. With matching and correct chassis, body, engine, gearbox, steering box and front/rear axle numbers, this unmolested 3-Litre ticks every box.